If there’s one thing that totally freaks out regular folks, it’s the idea of big data. Here are companies that you regularly go to for, say, yogurt, or diapers, or beard trimmers, and they’re collecting personal information on you and your spending habits. Then, they take that information and use it to sell you more products. That’s right, everybody. Big brother is actually watching, and he’s trying to get you to buy more soda.

From a marketing standpoint, however, big data serves as a valuable resource for effectively communicating to consumers. While it’s not always with the best intentions, it can often highlight valuable information that is useful to a company’s audience and as a result, lead to sales, brand loyalty, and overall business growth.

How Does Gathering That Data Work?

Big data is now informing a number of political campaigns in order to find different, more strategic ways to engage the electorate. By gathering that data, it helps political parties, lobbyists and other political entities predict how to attract voters.

For example, if you receive emails from President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and members of their staff, you might see subject lines like:

  • “[Your Name], I need you”
  • “This is in your hands”
  • “This is actually really fun (and I’ll totes do it with you).” This one was sent by White House staffer and sometimes actor Kal Penn. Way to stay hip, Kal!

These emails are especially prevalent during election seasons on both sides of the aisle. After the 2012 election, Obama campaign email director Toby Fallsgraff revealed that a great deal of A/B testing went into finding which email subject lines garnered the Dems the most campaign donations. Between 20 writers and a powerful analytics system, they tested and re-tested several email drafts and subject lines along with numerous variations of those drafts, gathering data on their performance. The ones that tested the strongest were sent to subscribers, and then awaited those sweet, sweet donation checks.

Here’s what they found: The subject line that garnered Obama’s team the most contributions was “I will be outspent.” How much? $2,673,278 out of the $690 million raised came from that email. Their testing also found that while one subject line might work at first, it eventually lost traction and they had to test something new.

The Takeaway

Big data gives marketers and business owners the most effective ways to communicate to their audience. By testing out campaign strategies and content with a small target portion of your audience before approaching your full audience, you’ll better understand what they respond to. Programs like Optimizely provide actionable data that can increase conversions. Even good ole Google Analytics can give you an idea of what is and isn’t working with your audience. It’s all about testing your strategy before fully implementing it in order to gain the best results.

Big Data is Also Handy for Content Creation

Companies have used mined data to create fascinating editorial content about their industries. The OKCupid blog, for instance, is rife with interesting studies and statistics in corpus linguistics and online dating patterns which shed light onto sociological patterns and trends. A recent study they posted highlighted the link between race and attraction, pulling data compiled from 2009 through 2014. Information like this provides powerful insight into how data can be intriguing and illuminating, as well as actionable. Now OKCupid knows how to improve their matchmaking algorithm while also sharing an interesting factoid with their general users that can be quoted in articles like this one.

When big data is used to empower companies in creating compelling content culled from research, it has multiple benefits.

  • It helps a company understand their target audience’s interests so they are then able to shape content that connects to their interests, socioeconomic profile, and other factors. Thus, that company becomes an influencer within their industry. A great example would be the shoe and apparel company Vans. Their #LivingOffTheWall series of short documentary videos introduces their targeted market to makers and artists in their niche.
  • It helps drive traffic to the company’s website, which in turn increases sales conversions.
  • When content increases traffic, there’s a bigger opportunity for advertising sales.
  • Interesting content is more likely to be shared on social media. That hugely aids in strengthening a company’s social media score and brings them attention from external news sources.
  • Big data can give companies a large pool of intriguing information to pull from at a low cost, giving them an endless supply of content.
  • When you understand your audience in an in-depth, data-driven way, you then have the tools available to improve services to them.

The Takeaway

Interesting data transforms into interesting content for a blog, social media page or company page. Understanding who you’re talking to through researched data empowers a company to improve what they do and connect with their market. So get to know your audience by tracking what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Then with some creativity, you can find ways to use this info to your advantage. That can be a video series, promotion idea, or complete re-branding strategy.

But is Big Always Better?

While big data can give you better insight into your audience, it can’t necessarily guarantee they use their services, buy their products or vote for their political party in an important election. That’s where big data and content marketing strategies come in.

Even though mining big data has been the go-to method of creating content marketing strategies, many companies are turning away from that approach and employing small data marketing strategies, also known as omni-channel marketing.

In the simplest terms, omni-channel marketing refers to breaking down big data into smaller bits and then using those nuggets of information to build 1:1 relationships. To do that, companies focus on engaging individuals by sourcing data from a single source rather than attempting to mine data from a huge pool of info.

For example, a manager can look at his or her company’s specific analytics on Facebook insights to build an informed strategy on what type of content to share on the social network based on the popularity of past posts, the times fans of the page are on Facebook, and demographics (gender, location, etc.) on those visiting the page rather than use data compiled on overall social media use.

An article on omni-channel marketing recently appeared on Forbes.com to illustrate how this method is a better choice for developing marketing strategies. However, a two-pronged approach could be a good option for companies and marketers.

The Takeaway

At the end of the day, data is there as a powerful resource. Omni-channel marketing is excellent for more focused outreach approaches in a specific setting. A company is able to get a closer shot at the bullseye by employing this strategy, increasing their odds at growing their business and its audience. Big data, however, still serves a major and useful purpose in driving content strategies because it provides useful information for performing broader outreach. In either case, you will better understand you’re your target audience and market. Digital marketing as a whole has been a game changer because of big and small data’s quantifiable, trackable form of marketing. With some intuitiveness and creativity, the possibilities of how data can be used for content marketing are endless and very exciting.